What Saxophone Mouthpiece Should I Use?

Welcome to the next post from 18 Tips for a Better Tone!

Choosing the right mouthpiece can be very personal for each saxophone player. To kick off the post, I want to share a story about Ernie Northway and Stan Getz.  The point of this story will save you time and money as you search for your ideal mouthpiece.

The Story

Around 2001, Ernie Northway shared the following story with me about his personal experience with Stan Getz . Stan Getz called up Ernie on the phone and asked him if he could make a custom mouthpiece for him. Ernie was excited to hear from Stan Getz, but Ernie suggested that Stan should not switch mouthpieces because he already had a beautiful tone. Ernie then said, “I wouldn’t want to change your tone.” Stan Getz replied, “You’re not going to change my tone.” That’s true- no matter what mouthpiece Stan Getz used, he always sounded like Stan Getz. By the way, the quotes above are not word for word from Ernie, but the point of the story is accurate.

Through the conversation that occurred after Ernie’s story, I learned the following. Mouthpieces can provide different characteristics in your tone, they can provide an easier playing experience, and can produce varying intonation characteristics. But when it comes down to it, the mouthpiece doesn’t transform your tone into someone else’s tone. Just because someone plays on the same mouthpiece as Stan Getz, it doesn’t mean they’re going to sound like Stan Getz. Stan Getz always sounded like Stan Getz, and John Coltrane always sounded like John Coltrane. So, when choosing a mouthpiece, we’re looking for one that fits and feels right; just like trying to find the correct reed. 

Find Your Tone

Now that we know a mouthpiece won’t magically change our tone to be just like our favorite saxophone player, we can begin our search. Let’s begin with the mouthpiece you already own.

If you don’t know what mouthpiece you have, we can take a closer look. Are there any markings? If there are (such as a number or brand), you can look up your mouthpiece online and see what type of mouthpiece it is. If you’re a beginner, and you happen to own something like a Dukoff mouthpiece, I would suggest purchasing something else. You can always experiment with the Dukoff down the road, but for now, it’s more important to have a mouthpiece that will play easily and be forgiving.

If you have a mouthpiece that doesn’t have any markings, there’s a pretty good chance that it’s a beginner’s mouthpiece. Many of these will work just fine, but if it’s not working for you, I would suggest another beginner mouthpiece: Yamaha 4C.

The Drop of Death!

Drops can cause nicks, scratches, or cause the mouthpiece to break completely.  Sometimes a mouthpiece will have a chip in the tip, and it won’t be noticeable. However, this can (at times) make the saxophone nearly impossible to play. If it does play, it could be more difficult than it should or provide an inferior tone. We work hard to get a good tone; we definitely don’t want the mouthpiece holding us back!

How To Choose the Right One

Next week we’ll go into greater detail about choosing mouthpieces. Until then, please share with us what mouthpiece you use. Let us know by posting in the comment section.

As always, if you like or share our post, it really helps us out. This way, we can continue to provide quality content. It also helps us get the word out to others who are looking for this type of information. We appreciate all your help!

Another way we can help you improve your tone is with free lessons. You can gain instant access by clicking here. These lessons have already helped many people, and we are confident it can help you too. Enjoy!

Comments 8

  1. Title of the article was: What Mouthpiece Should I Use?
    In the whole entire article, not a clue was given in how to pick out a mouthpiece. I either missed something, or you need to change the title of the article. I’m a little beyond the beginning stage, and need more detailed and technical information. Will these lessons be more informative for the advanced player, at some point down the road?
    Thanks

    1. Post
      Author

      Thanks for your feedback Blaise. I do appreciate it. Concerning future lessons, there are plans, but things are still in the planning stages. If you would like a better idea of what the Premiere Lessons offer, I can send some images and a description of the more advanced parts of the lesson plan. Just let me know if you would like that and I’ll send it right over. Thanks for asking!

  2. I had problems with the mouthpiece that came with my introductory soprano sax. I have been playing clarinet for years and know the importance of having a good mouthpiece. I replaced the original and bought a Yamaha 4-C. What a difference. After using the 4-C for a few weeks I realized that the tone of my sax, while better, could be improved. I replaced the introductory model with a new intermediate soprano sax. I would love to be able to afford a professional level, but since I play, in a senior community group, for our own pleasure, I am do not need such an expensive instrument. If I won the lottery, maybe I’d splurge with a finer instrument.

    1. Post
      Author

      Thanks for the update Ed, and I’m happy to hear that you’re making progress. Do you find that your embouchure is the same on soprano as it is on clarinet?

  3. Hi Jeff.
    Thanks for you post the great info about mouthpiece. You know I got a cheap alto saxophone but I bought one selmer 170 mouthpiece , which is working great. I will keep the mp and upgrade saxophone in the future. About two months ago I bought a Yamaha yas 280 tenor which mp coming from Yamaha . My daughter will use alto and I work on tenor. I got saxo team at home niw

    1. Post
      Author

      I’m happy to hear that the selmer mp is working well for you. It’s always exciting to find the right mp. Good tenor too, and congrats on getting your daughter to play. I haven’t been able to convince my daughters to play the saxophone yet 🙂 Thanks for sharing Haihuang!

  4. I have been using the yamaha 5c , but have changed to a otto link 7 very recently. I am also changing reed , ( tried a vandoren 3, but couldn’t work it ) so trying their no 2 1/2 reed. Still adjusting at the moment and not sure if the opening on the mp is too big for me . I’ve been playing just over a year

    1. Post
      Author

      Hey Paul. Good to hear from you again. When switching to a jazz mouthpiece (such as the otto link) it’s important to use a reed that will better fit your set up. A popular reed for playing jazz is the Vandoren Java series (start with a 3). There are many options out there, but this reed is just one choice. Just as a reminder, our lessons do not focus on jazz, but provide a solid foundation so you can move onto any style after the course is completed. I bring this up because some of the direction in the course is a little different than what I would teach if I were providing jazz lessons. Since you have moved onto a jazz mouthpiece I wanted to make you aware of that. Thanks for the update!

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